The marshal’s hands shot into the air as if operated by springs.
The Ramblin’ Kid, with his left hand, jerked Poole’s revolver from its holster. He backed into the street toward where Captain Jack and Old Pie Face were standing, still with his own gun covering the officer.
“Jack!” he cried sharply, “meet me!”
The little stallion moved toward him.
With the thumb of the hand in which he held the marshal’s gun the Ramblin’ Kid threw open the breech and flipped the shells on the ground. He tossed the empty forty-four to one side, threw the reins over Captain Jack’s head and the next instant was in the saddle. The broncho wheeled and was gone, in a dead run, toward the west.
The marshal rushed into the street and picked up his gun, jerked some cartridges from his belt, slipped them into the cylinder and fired quickly at the fleeing horse and rider.
The bullets whistled past the ear of the Ramblin’ Kid.
He raised his own weapon, half-turned in the saddle, dropped the muzzle of the gun forward until it pointed at the flashes spitting from the officer’s revolver. His finger started to tighten on the trigger.
“Hell,” he muttered, “what’s the use? Tom’s just doin’ what he thinks he has to do!” and the Ramblin’ Kid slipped the gun, unfired, back into its holster.
A moment later Captain Jack whirled to the right across the Santa Fe tracks and bearing a little to the east, in the direction of Capaline, the dead volcano that rises out of the lavas northwest of the Quarter Circle KT, between the Purgatory and the Cimarron, disappeared in the black starlit night.
It is a week to the day since the fight in the Elite Amusement Parlor in Eagle Butte. Since the Ramblin’ Kid, followed by the wicked sing of the bullets from the marshal’s gun, disappeared in the darkness no word has come from the fugitive cowboy, who beat to a pulp the burly Greek.
The Gold Dust maverick paces uneasily about in the circular corral and the Quarter Circle KT has settled into the hum-drum routine of ranch life.
Parker, Charley, Chuck and Bert are gone to Chicago with the train-load of beef cattle. Skinny bosses a gang of “picked-up” hay hands Old Heck brought out from Eagle Butte to harvest the second cutting of alfalfa. Pedro rides line daily on the upland pasture and Sing Pete hammers the iron triangle morning, noon and night, announcing the regular arrival of meal-time. The Chinaman is careful when he throws out empty tomato-cans—turning back the tin to make it impossible for the yellow cat again to fasten his head in one of the inviting traps, and the cook would imperil the hope of the return of his soul to the flowery Orient before he would put butter in the bottom of a can to entice the animal into trouble.
Old Heck and Ophelia are like a pair of nesting doves and there is a new vigor to the step of the owner of the Quarter Circle KT, a revived interest in affairs generally; years seem to have fallen from his shoulders.